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Powering Frontier

ORNL successfully installs 2.5-mile power line for the OLCF’s Frontier supercomputer

Rachel Harkin
August 31, 2020
ORNL staff members recently installed a 2.5-mile long power line as part of the Oak Ridge Computing Facility’s (OLCF’s) Frontier supercomputer project.
The project began last fall with design work and a field survey to ensure that wildlife and habitat wouldn’t be impacted in the construction process.
The Roads and Grounds Crew led by ORNL’s Matt Powell and Zackary Moore of the Logistical Services Division began carving out roads to prepare for the installation.
Then a team led by ORNL’s Jack Wilkinson began the daunting task of installing the power line, beginning at one of the laboratory’s nearby substations. The project was massive.
“Some of the rolls of wire had about 8,000 feet on them and weighed around 8,800 pounds,” said Jack Wilkinson, a project manager in ORNL’s Laboratory Modernization Division. “We had to run 12 conductors a total of 2.5 miles for about 160,000 feet of large wire overhead. There were about 50 employees on the project scattered throughout the area at any given time.”
Staff members had to dig 10-foot-deep trenches in the substation and under roads to install conduit banks of electrical conduit.
The end result was more than 2.5 miles of 13.8-kilovolt electrical cables running along 84 new power poles down Ramsey Drive and Melton Valley Drive and across Haw Ridge.
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The design of the lines takes into account snowfall, wind conditions, temperature conditions, and the rate of expansion, resulting in the ideal amount of sag and tension on the lines.
Multiple access pads across Haw Ridge link the lines straight from Melton Valley Drive to White Oak Avenue and the 5600-5700-5800 complex where the OLCF’s supercomputers live.
The project provides 40 megawatts of power and cooling to the Frontier data center.